Friday, November 1, 2013


Starting today, the 2009 Recovery Act’s temporary benefit boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits end.   This program, formerly known as food stamps, serves about 23 million households, or nearly 48 million people.    48 million!

The average monthly benefit for an individual was about $200 a month and will drop to $189.  A family of four, received  about $668 a month which will drop to $632.    This is a reduction from approximately $1.50 per meal to $1.40 per meal.  

Although the decrease may sound minor, for individuals and families already living on tight budgets, the reduction could mean a couple bags of groceries per month, which can be significant.  And the cut comes right before the holiday season which is even more devastating.

Yesterday I spoke with the director of our local food pantry.   She said that more and more people are already turning to food banks and this will further increase the need.  Further she said that basic nutrition will also suffer with SNAP decreases as people buy cheaper, less nutritious food to make ends meet.

I used to live in public housing and I know what it is like to have to choose between buying food, paying rent, and getting medical care.  My office is next to the Senior Services office and I can tell you, many of our seniors are already struggling to heat their homes and buy medicine.   

There is currently a debate in Congress over whether, and how much, the SNAP program could be cut in years to come. The House of Representatives passed a bill in mid-September that would eliminate about $39 billion from the SNAP budget over 10 years, while the Senate has approved a bill that makes much smaller cuts to the program.

Two things you can do:

1. If you are so inclined, please contact your Congressional representatives and let them know that Congress should not allow further cuts to the  SNAP program, particularly at this time of extreme need.  Also that the program should have incentives for healthy foods, something that some states have tried for, but the major food industries have lobbied against, and won.  Incredible, but true.

2. As much as you are able, contribute to your local food banks.  Food banks estimate that a typical SNAP benefit is enough for a family to buy food for two and a half to three weeks. With the reduction, this will be reduced to two or two and a half weeks.  The need for food assistance is going to be great.

I always find it difficult to reconcile that so many members of Congress tout their so-called “Christian values”  on one hand, while literally taking food out of baby's mouths with the other.   But there again, I also have trouble reconciling how much abundance I have, while others struggle so much.   I often think of that line “Half the world is starving and the other half feels too fat.”

In this month of giving thanks for all we have, please share, if you are able.


  1. Adequate and nutritious food is a fundamental human right and a basic need that is integral to protecting the life and dignity of the human person.

    Most religions calls us to care for our neighbor and remember ‘the least of these.’ SNAP is one of the country’s most important anti-hunger programs, and this reduction could leave up to six million people without vital food assistance. It is morally indefensible.

    My local food pantry has already reported an increase in the number of calls so I echo your plea for all those who can - please donate.

  2. I work for a food bank and I can attest to both the current need, and the panic people are feeling with these cuts. Please remember when donating that food packaged in cans is better than glass and that food cannot be past the expiration date. Items most often in need are:

    - Shelf-stable milk
    - Foods high in protein such as canned meats (i.e., tuna, chicken, salmon) and canned or dried beans
    - Foods high in nutrients, such as canned fruits and vegetables (preferably with reduced sodium and reduced sugar)
    - Whole-grain foods such as brown rice, whole grain cereal and whole-wheat pasta
    - Soups, chilies and stews (preferably with reduced sodium and reduced fat)
    - 100 percent fruit juice (canned, plastic or boxed)
    - Unsaturated cooking oils
    - Peanut butter
    - Low-sugar cereals
    - other nutritious, “healthy-choice” foods (preferably with reduced fat, sodium and sugar)

    Food Banks also need nutritious, non-perishable, single-serving foods for use in programs for children.

    - Pop-Top Tuna
    - 100% Fruit Rolls
    - Raisins
    - Graham Crackers
    - Unsweetened Applesauce
    - Cheese and Crackers
    - Fruit Cups
    - Low-sugar Cereal Bowls

  3. If you really want to raise your blood pressure, check out how much money in federal subsidies goes to the industrial food producers. It is truly sickening. Unconscionable.

    I give to my local food bank through automatic withdrawal. That way I never forget, I'm never late, and anything I give above that is just all the better.

    Thank you for bringing this up...

    1. Can I ask how you do an automatic withdrawal? Is that through the food bank directly (website?) or through an umbrella organization? I would love to set something up for the food bank I work for.